Kathmandu, Nepal – Tensions are rising in Slesmantak forest, near Pashupati temple (Kathmandu), recently designed as a burial ground for non-Hindus. About a hundred ethnic Kirati, who profess a shamanistic religion, recently protested against the interruption by Hindu extremists of a traditional funeral. They were joined by Christians, Muslims and members of other religions. About 40 people were injured in clashes with police that had been called to guard the area.
Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal told local authorities to find another place for non-Hindus to avoid further incidents. He also said that non-Hindus could use the site until further notice.
The Pashupati temple and the nearby Slesmantak Forest have been designed as a UNESCO World Heritage site with the temple area reserved for Hindus who cremate their dead rather than bury them.
Forced to reuse tombs several times because of a lack of space, Christians, Muslims, Baha’is and indigenous tribes have buried their dead in the forest, the only area still available. This has led to Hindu protests and forced the local authorities to ban burying the dead in the forest. Recently, the ban was lifted, but police continue to enforce it.
For K B Rokaya, a Christian and human rights activist, “The laws should be the same for every religion. If the government bans the use of the area because of its historic significance, the ban should apply to everyone, Hindu and non-Hindu.”